Weather batters, strengthens GA

November 22, 2011

2011 GA Disaster Recap

Earthquakes. Tornados. Floods. Hurricanes. Wildfires. Forces of nature wreaked havoc on many parts of the United States and other areas of the world in 2011. In many cases, general aviation airports and aircraft were dealt a particularly hard blow, but in each instance, pilots rallied together to support one another, their neighbors, and strangers.

This year, AOPA Online brought you news of the freak tornado that swept through Sun ‘n Fun in Lakeland, Fla., March 31, tossing aircraft like paper airplanes. AOPA-Japan provided an exclusive look inside the humanitarian flights pilots provided soon after an earthquake and tsunami crippled the country.

The aviation community rose to the occasion again as flooding plagued parts of the United States. In March, the Civil Air Patrol assisted with flood control and conducted aerial surveys in the Dakotas and Minnesota; in May, airports along the Mississippi River closed because of the high waters, forcing many to relocate their aircraft. Late this summer, Hurricane Irene battered the Bahamas islands and trudged up the East Coast, causing flooding and power outages. Pilots immediately began flying relief supplies to the Bahamas Islands while others along the hurricane’s path prepared to evacuate their aircraft. While wildfires ravaged Texas in September, a pilot and real estate agent took pictures of property and posted them online, allowing one family that was traveling out of state to check the status of their home online.

Take a look at the stories and slideshows of how the GA community pulled together and pulled through.

Sendai Airport

AOPA-Japan suffered the loss of at least one member during the earthquake and tsunami that struck March 11. Two members lost one of their aircraft in the natural disaster but used their other aircraft to deliver groceries and supplies to areas in need. Read more and view a slideshow of the relief effort >>

Sun-N-Fun tornado

Lasting less than 15 minutes, the powerful thunderstorm and brief tornado tossed some airplanes like dry leaves but left others untouched. Sun ‘n Fun employees worked around the clock to reopen the show the next day, and AOPA offered assistance to pilots who were impacted. View a slideshow and video of the damage >>

Mississippi airport flooding

Yellow plastic tarps marked Xs on runways closed by Mississippi River flooding in May. Preemptive action helped minimize the effect on pilots: Many aircraft were flown from their home base airports before the flooding started or were lifted in their hangars to remain above the water. View a slideshow of aerial footage of the flood >>

Bahamas hurricane damage

Cat Island of the Bahamas sustained major damage from Category 3 Hurricane Irene in August, damaging or ripping off roofs and shredding at least one twin-engine aircraft. While the East Coast of the United States braced for the storm, volunteer pilots flew food, drinking water, and roofing supplies to the islands. View a slideshow and video of the relief flights >>

Texas wildfires

Bernie and Joan Devine were 1,600 miles from home when the Texas wildfires threatened their neighborhood. Fortunately, they found aerial footage of their home online. Airport manager and realtor Dana Martin surveyed the area by air and posted video for those who had evacuated to keep tabs on their homes. It took a TFR to keep her out of the air. Read more >>